Sometimes, I get discouraged when I hear the length of time some people spend in prayer. Scriptures like, “Pray without ceasing” or “Men ought always to pray and not to faint” don’t really help matters.
I couldn’t exactly find the reality in this biblical instruction. Not even in this 21st white-collar slavery century. How possible is it for us to pray all the time, with the truck load of work to be done both in the office and at home, not forgetting the church commitments as well? How many one-hour prayers can we really carve out of a day, when we barely have an hour break from the entire working hours?
Fortunately, I found a practical solace in the fellow called Nehemiah, whose daily assignment wasn’t to pray and preach the gospel, but yet prayed without ceasing, though he was as busy as we are (mentally and physically). From this character, I figured that there is more to prayer than the one-hour devotion in the morning, and the one-hour Bible reading at night.
Nehemiah was serving in the court of King Artaxerxes of Babylon when he was told that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and the gates were burned with fire, and the people there were in distress. This greatly bothered Nehemiah to the extent that the king noticed and asked what the problem was.
“And said unto the king, “Let the king live forever: Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ selphuchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then said the king unto me, for what does thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. And said unto the king…”
–Nehemiah 2 vs. 3 – 5
Between the time when king asked what the problem was and when Nehemiah responded, it was recorded that he prayed. For the Bible to record that he prayed, it is certain he didn’t just murmur words in a panic situation; I would like to think he set his mind on heaven for few seconds and prayed. I believe he certainly did not go on his knees, bow his head in prayers, sing about three to five worship songs, call the name of the Lord in different languages, ask God what exactly he should say, speak in diverse tongues, then go ahead to answer the king. He simply whispered a short prayer under his breath and answered the king. This singular act strikes out the impossibility in praying without ceasing. It shows that God honours both the hours of prayer, as well as the seconds of prayer we render on-the-go.
Flipping through the book of Nehemiah, it became quite obvious that he prayed without ceasing in the real sense of it. He virtually communicated with heaven at every instance. Observe the fact that he prayed when he was crying (Nehemiah 1 vs. 4); while Sanballat was mocking him, he was praying (Nehemiah 4 vs. 4); even when they gave false witness against him, it was recorded that he prayed (Nehemiah 6 vs. 9); down to when the prophet who happened to be one of his own people betrayed him and pronounced a false prophesy, Nehemiah prayed (Nehemiah 6 vs. 14).
Maybe Nehemiah learnt from Joshua’s seconds of prayer on the battle field to keep the sun up (we can be sure he didn’t go on his knees and bow his head to pray, in the middle of a battle). It definitely didn’t take Samson minutes when he said “Please strengthen me just this time”. Neither did Stephen fast before praying for the forgiveness of those who stoned him.
Nehemiah’s first reaction to things was to pray, and he achieved this because over time he had trained himself to pray both during “morning devotion” and during “office hours”. A Nehemiah would pray while walking from his table to the front desk. He would whisper words of prayer and focus his mind on heaven for the few seconds he spends in the elevator. He didn’t pile up issues till the next devotion; he prayed on-the-go. You can pray before opening the file on your table, and say a word of prayer after closing it. When an ambulance drives by you on the road, you can whisper a word of prayer. We can connect with heaven rather than lament through the traffic. We can ask God for the right words to say before that call is answered at the other end. Every slight conversation keeps you subconsciously aware that He is with you and it portrays your reliance on Him.
Maybe the word “prayer” makes it look tedious; gist with God. If truly we’re in a relationship with Him, then praying on-the-go will not be a problem. You can’t spend an entire day with someone you’re close to and not gist with the person. In actual sense, our on-the-go prayers tell a lot about how real our relationship with the Lord is; which is what Christianity is all about.